We’ve just returned from a brilliant boating holiday in France with Le Boat. We picked up our 39 foot self drive motor boat in Nort-sur-Erdre north of Nantes in Brittany and spent 7 fun days cruising along the River Erdre, Canal de Nantes à Brest and River Vilaine. It was a week long adventure that we’ll never forget, with beautiful scenery, incredible wildlife and overnight stops in 7 different marinas. We travelled through 18 locks, stopped at every village along the way that took our fancy and loved every second of the 35 hours of cruising we clocked up. (All without any of us falling in and me only using a few rude French words due to my terrible rope throwing skills!).
A boat holiday in France is something my husband, Richard, and I have wanted to do for years but we wanted to wait until our boys were old enough to enjoy it safely. When a press trip opportunity came up we literally jumped at the chance. It’s fair to say that at 4 & 7 years old they now have the boating bug too and I fully expect boating to play a major part of our family life from now on. We have no plans to move back onboard a narrow boat (their toys won’t fit!) but we’ll certainly be going on more boat holidays whilst we save up money to buy our own. If all goes to plan, at some point in the next few years we’ll go on a extended family boating adventure. (Whilst our boys still think we are cool enough to hang out with!)
This is the first of many articles and videos that I plan to publish featuring our boating holiday in France. For this post I’m going to focus on the boat and route itself.
Edited October 2019 – This post focuses on what it’s really like to go on a boating holiday with kids. (Spoiler alert… It’s brilliant fun and bizarrely very relaxing too. I read two books whilst away which never happens when on holiday with my energetic pair!). This post shares our fun activity ideas when boating with kids and our videos sharing an insight into what a boating holiday is really like can be viewed over on our YouTube channel.
Boating holidays in France with Le Boat
Picking up our boat from Nort-sur-Erdre
We travelled from the UK with Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth. It truly was a boating holiday from start to finish! We did consider flying into nearby Nantes airport but to be honest the cost of travelling to and from the Le Boat bases in Nort-sur-Edre and Messac via taxi put us off. I do also love to be able to throw everything we need into our car without worrying about restrictive luggage allowances.
We stayed overnight at a great self catering apartment in Rennes. (We paid for our stay so not sponsored in any way but I can thoroughly recommend if you are looking for a reasonably priced place to stay in Rennes). As we’d been allocated an early check by Le Boat we headed off early to the Nort-sur-Edre base. On arrival we were given a really useful briefing about the route to Messac, our final destination. We discussed the best villages to call into for a wander, were given an explanation of what to do in the locks (all manned by lock keepers or automated along our route), given pointers on the wildlife to look out for and a run through of all the important info contained in the file we were given to take with us.
The info file was absolutely brilliant (similar to a Reeds Almanac for any seasoned boaters reading this). It included everything we needed to know for cruising the canals and rivers including distances between locks, descriptions of facilities at all the villages and marinas along the route and opening hours’/contact numbers for every lock keeper and marina.
After doing a huge food shop at a nearby supermarket, (which I thoroughly recommend as the French are notorious for their funny opening hours!) we loaded everything onto the boat and had a safety and boat briefing by a lovely British guy called Paul. He showed us around the boat pointing out everything we needed to know, from steering the boat to filling it with water, switching to shore power when in marinas and where everything was stored, (lifejackets, etc). We didn’t go out in the boat with Paul, as he knew we’d lived onboard boats before, however I’m sure if you were feeling apprehensive about taking out a boat for the first time Le Boat would take you out to show you the ropes. (Pun intended!)
Video tour around our boat – Caprice
Click on the arrow below to go on a tour around our temporary floating home…
We commented many times during our week onboard Caprice, a 39 foot six-person capacity motor cruiser, that she was perfect for families. We loved the two good sized cabins (both which could be left as 2 x single beds or converted into a double bed), the generous amounts of storage in the cabins and the two toilets, both with showers and sinks. (Ignore my video that mentions just one shower. I didn’t spot the second shower in my boys designated toilet for a couple of days).
Richard is 6′ 2″ tall and yet he had no problems with the height of the boat. The Caprice is designed for six people – the spacious saloon doubles up as a third bedroom, so it was a real treat to have the extra space. To be honest I’m not sure where the fifth and sixth person would store their clothes in the saloon as we managed to fill every cupboard but there is definitely space around the dining table and the top deck for six people.
We were able to keep the boat very tidy throughout the week as everything had a home. We were actually very boat proud, sweeping and tidying up everyday, (I’m not like this at home!). I thought the galley kitchen was also extremely well thought out with lots of space to prepare meals and serve up, plenty of pots, pans etc and a big pile of tea towels for us to use which I was very impressed with. (We were provided with plenty of bath towels and blankets too which I was equally as impressed with. There’s nothing worse than being on holiday with one wet soggy towel is there?!).
Literally our only slight criticism re: the layout of the boat was the position of the horn on the upper steering station. As it was located at knee level we kept accidentally honking fellow boaters very loudly! Much to the amusement of my boys.
It was great to have both an indoor steering station, (to use during rain or if we wished to eat all together downstairs near the dining table whilst cruising) and outdoor steering position too which provided exceptional visibility over the water. On the top deck we had an umbrella for shade. We did see some Le Boat boats with permanent covers which looked like they were able to withstand the wind a little better. We had to keep taking ours down to avoid losing it overboard.
An important thing to realise is that Le Boat offer a wide range of boats. We didn’t actually see another boat like the Caprice whilst out on the water but we did see lots of other Le Boats of all shapes and sizes. Some with an outdoor dining area, others with permanent outdoor shaded areas (rather than our umbrella shade) so if a boating holiday takes your fancy it’s worth taking a look at the full range of boats and seeing what works best for your family/group.
Our route: Nort-sur-Erdre to Messac, via La Roche Bernard
The best advice we received all week was by the lovely lady who welcomed us at the Le Boat base. I asked her to write down the seven places we should stop for the night. She kindly pointed out that we should just go with the flow and stop overnight at places that took our fancy. She did of course helpfully point out the larger marinas enroute and the ones with the best facilities but I’m so glad she didn’t list the seven marinas as I had asked as it was so much fun just pulling into the marinas that we liked the look of.
We were very surprised to hear that the majority of moorings in Brittany are free for boat users (for 48 hours usually) including in some marinas free electricity and water. We stayed at 5 free moorings during our 7-night cruise, I’ve listed the ones we paid for below in case this is helpful for planning your boating holiday.
We spent our first night in Sucé-sur-Erdre (where the boat tour above was filmed) not far from Nantes. We got completely carried away on our first full day of cruising, travelling for 9 hours and passing through 10 locks. We were having such a good time we just didn’t want to moor up!
I’ve taken lots of time lapse videos like this one which I will be editing to create one time lapse video featuring our week onboard but in the meantime this gives you an idea of how easy the manned locks are to pass through…
We stayed that night in Blain and travelled to Guenrouet the following day. This is my husband expertly mooring the boat as we arrived. He was very pleased with himself for this!
We would’ve loved to have spent more time here to be honest as it has a lovely outdoor pool, water sports centre and mini golf but as the pool doesn’t open until 2pm we didn’t want to waste our morning so decided to move on. Much to the disappointment of my boys. (If you are planning a boat trip in this area it’s worth allocating some time to the facilities ashore here).
Next we headed to Redon where we stayed in a fabulous marina (29 euros for the night) and fell very lucky as there was a free music festival taking place which was great fun to attend. (This happened by coincidence three times during our week on the boat, two music festivals and one photo festival which I let my boys and hubby think I had planned our boat route around!)
Our favourite overnight stop was next, the extremely pretty village of La Gacilly, located on the banks of the Aff River. This is where the photo festival was taking place, an annual event, popular with tourists as it’s France’s largest outdoor photographic festival. The narrow colourful streets of La Gacilly were a treat to explore on foot. We kept nipping into the many arts and crafts stalls and I could have spent a fortune on handmade pottery, glass and jewellery.
Our sixth night was spent at a stunning sea port called Folleux. This was the most expensive mooring we paid for throughout the week at 37 euros (chargeable by length of boat, ours was 39 foot). The shower facilities here were great and we really enjoyed the atmosphere in the port bar and playground. Again we fell very lucky for there was a food market taking place, a large playground full of kids and live music in the bar.
Our final night came round far too quickly. As we had to get the boat back to base and hand her over for 9am we spent our last night near the Le Boat base in Messac. We made the most of our final day though by going through our last lock with just 30 minutes to spare before it closed for the evening! The marina was quite a walk from the bars and restaurants in the nearby riverside town of Guipry and so we were pleased to see our car had already been driven from **Nort-sur-Edre. With our spare set of keys we were able to jump in and go for a meal. (**We paid 120 euros for this one way transfer fee, we could have taken a round trip cruise but we wanted to see as much as possible in our week).
Handing back the keys to Caprice the next day was quick and simple, although rather sad! We packed up our belongings, had a quick sweep around the decks and asked a member of staff to check how many hours the engine had been running for. (So they could work out how much we owed them for fuel). Our fuel bill came to just over 300 euros which does seem a lot but fuel is expensive in France so it’s a cost that unfortunately can’t be avoided. Hand on heart though the views and wildlife we experienced during our week cruising along the canals and rivers were worth every euro!
Check out our other articles for more info –
If you have any questions about boating holidays in France with kids please pop them below and I’ll try my best to answer them.
Pricing Details – Boating holidays in France (Brittany) with Le Boat
The Dukes of Brittany Cruise – One-way from Nort-sur-Erdre to Messac, via La Roche Bernard.
A seven-night self-drive cruise on board premier boat Caprice which sleeps up to 6 people departing Monday 8 October 2018 is priced from £1,041. The same self drive departing Saturday 20 April 2019 is priced from £1,193. Price includes boat rental, fully-equipped kitchen, towels and linen for all passengers, boat handling demo, technical support, on-board cruising information and locks fee. Price excludes boat damage waiver, fuel, travel to/from the base, mooring fees and insurance. Le Boat (023 9280 9124, www.leboat.co.uk)
Disclaimer – We were kindly invited to review a boating holiday in France by Le Boat. All words and opinions are, as always, our own. All images copyright Travel Loving Family.
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